Picture Partnership Productions
It’s “Urk-Yul” Poirot! Yes, everyone’s favorite Belgie detective, Hercule Poirot (played by David Suchet) is once more investigating a murder — this time on a steam train from London’s Paddington Station to Bristol (and eventually Plymouth).
Our first steam engine encounter is in the credits of every TV episode of the series (see above). It looks to be an “artist’s conception” of a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 streamlined 4-6-2 designed by Sir Nigel Gresley.
Today’s episode features two different Southern Railway (U.K.) steam engines as well as location shooting at Hull Paragon Railway Station (standing in for London’s Paddington, Bristol & Plymouth) and along the Bluebell Railway.
In a moving crane shot, we find SR #777 “Sir Lamiel” pulling its’ four-car train into Plymouth…er Hull Station. A grisly discovery is about to be made onboard!
The train scenes open about 13 minutes into the feature with rich girl Florence (played by Shelagh McLeod) boarding the train to Plymouth. She is accompanied by her maid/servant Jane Mason (played by Marion Bailey).
All scenes shown here were filmed at Hull Paragon standing in for Paddington (London). As the taxi is unloaded, we get a brief glimpse of the Station Hotel at Hull. As the two walk the platform, I couldn’t help thinking of the old Yosemite Sam line from Hare Trimmed 1953, “That dame’s taking everything, but the kitchen sink!”.
As the guard loads Flo’s enormous trousseau, she insists her lowly maid sit in 3rd class whilst she luxuriates in First Class comfort. Bitch.
Anyway. The whistle blows, the guard waves his green flag and they’re off! But wait. Who is this newspaper-toting bloke running alongside?
SR #777 steams under an overpass as Lady Flo rests with her furs and jewels (in the large grip on her left).
Bored, she turns to some light fluff, perusing “Radio Pictorial” magazine. Meanwhile back in steerage, Maid Marion is just starting in on J.B. Priestley’s latest, “Wonder Hero”.
Brushing past Jane comes newspaper guy, as he makes his way forward.
Gotta have at least one scene of the SR #777 4-6-0 passing OVER the camera. Adds to the DANGER element.
Okay, so here we are pulling into Plymouth/Hull. A young Royal Navy officer comes down the corridor to enter his compartment. Nice view of the interior with electric lights, railway map and antimacassars.
Gah! Flo is discovered under the seats, tits up. But how? Why? Who could have perpetrated such a fiendish and ghastly deed?
The crime boys are soon on site, getting pictures from every angle. This first train scene ends at 19 minutes.
“Hastings, what do you say to an invigorating ride of the West Country?” And just like that (23 minute mark), Poirot and his trusty sidekick (played by Hugh Fraser) are off behind Southern Railway 2-6-0 #1618 looking for some answers!
But first, a spot of tea in the buffet car. Poirot is timing their journey and retracing the route of The Plymouth Express. Of course, we’re now on the aforementioned Bluebell Railway.
Two good interior shots of the buffet and first class corridor.
Detraining at “Bristol” (I believe this is Horsted Keynes station on the Bluebell). Ever the gentleman, Hastings assists a woman and children in boarding the coach. Meanwhile, Poirot chats up the news butch who remembers Lady Flo.
End of 2nd train scene, 26 minute mark. Okay. On to the finale…
Poirot solves it all out at 43 minutes, of course. Uh-oh. It’s newspaper guy and… LOOK OUT, HE’S GOT A KNIFE!! AIEEEEE!!!
I always say, if you’re gonna ham up a death scene, be sure to smoosh your cheek up against the glass and make a goofy face.
I’ll end this review with more pleasant optics — that of SR #777 and #1618 going through their paces. Love that Southern Railway green!
Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Plymouth Express:
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Ahhhh, where should I even begin?! Poirot’s grey cells are definitely working that day 😉
The Plymouth Express would not pass through Bristol. The actual route from Paddington is via Reading, Newbury, Westbury, Taunton and Newton Abbott. Bristol is to the north of this route. Also Florence and her maid had to change trains at Bristol. Express trains are direct services. Thus the whole setup is simply contrived nonsense.